BWW Reviews: HAIRSPRAY, Bristol Hippodrome, August 7 2013
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblad, described as a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, whose passion for dance ends up bringing about a social revolution. Through becoming a TV dance sensation, Tracy works to gain acceptance of racial integration in her city and to ensure the happiness of her friends, with several of them falling in love along the way...
Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman's upbeat score transports the audience back to the swinging 60s, with some groove-inducing rhythm and blues tunes thrown in. The Bristol Hippodrome audience were a vocal lot, clearly showing their appreciation of the cheery tunes, although I did feel that the first number didn't quite have the impact it should have had. Freya Sutton is a sweet Tracy with a lovely voice, but something was missing from her vocals on an emotional level - I didn't quite believe that she felt what she was singing. However, she was certainly a likeable character, and worked very well with Luke Striffler, who plays her on-stage love interest and teen heartthrob Link Larkin. Striffler was wonderfully cheesy, as Link should be, yet also showed a more vulnerable side at times.
From the soulful Sandra Marvin blasting the roof off the theatre as Motormouth Maybelle, and Lucy Benjamin as the husky Queen of Mean Velma Von Tussle, to the delightfully awkward yet vocally powerful Lauren Hood as Penny Pingleton, this cast certainly are a talented bunch. However, there are a few people I'd like to give a special mention to. The first is the charming Gemma Sutton, who right from the start pulled my attention in the big group numbers with the amount of energy and spirit she exuded - it is clear that she puts everything into her performance, and loves every minute of it. Her interpretation of bitchy teen beauty queen Amber was spot on, and she backed up her impeccable acting with a wonderful set of pipes, all the while working well with her on-stage mother.
The other two stand-outs for me were Adrian Hansel as groover Seaweed Stubbs, and Gabrielle Brooks as his little sister Inez. There may have been several members of the audience who had booked their tickets to see Marcus Collins as Seaweed, but quite frankly there is no way that they could have left the Bristol Hippodrome disappointed this evening. Hansel truly captures the essence of Seaweed, a role he played in the London production of the show, and demonstrates some serious spine-tingling vocals in combination with some funky moves. Brooks is an utterly adorable Inez, and performs with the same gusto as Sutton, really grabbing the audience's heart, despite playing a relatively small part.
Hairspray's colourful set, upbeat tunes and wonderful energy surely can't fail to cheer up even the grumpiest of patrons, so if you're looking to feast on some upbeat music accompanied by a generous helping of cheese and a dollop of quirk, then the Hippodrome is the place to be this week!
Hairspray is playing at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 17 August.